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Book 1: The Heartwood Sea (Carter's Cove Beach Romance)

Book 1: The Heartwood Sea (Carter's Cove Beach Romance)

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The Heartwood Sea Formats
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Fall in love with The Heartwood Inn in Carter’s Cove…with 5 sweet romances, each featuring a Heartwood sister. You’ll get this complete series of heartwarming stories of sisterhood, friendship, and love that will leave you wanting to revisit Carter’s Cove over and over again. 

Each romance features a Heartwood sister navigating the potholes of romance with someone they DEFINITELY don't get along with...

START HERE! This is the first book in the Carter's Cove Beach Romance series.

About THE HEARTWOOD SEA: She owns The Heartwood Inn. He needs the land the inn sits on to impress his boss. Neither one of them will give an inch. But will they give each other their hearts? As they spend more time together, Alissa thinks she might have made a mistake... Can Shawn and Alissa take their relationship out of the fun zone and into something more serious?

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Sample Chapter 1 Now!

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Alissa Heartwood knew it was time to get up before her alarm even went off. Waking before dawn for the past decade could do that to a person. She had two of the most important jobs for The Heartwood Inn, the family-run hotel, resort, and restaurant on the popular island of Carter’s Cove, and they both started in the middle of the night.

One of the very last family-run establishments, the way the big corporations with their big checks and big pens had been coming in. Literally, great big checks that took three people to hold them while cameras clicked.

But Alissa’s family had stayed the course, and their “inn” was more of a luxury resort these days, with that downhome family feel people craved, even if they didn’t know it.

Alissa’s job was to bring in the catch-of-the-day on her trusty shrimp boat, and everyone knew the best time to get fish was before the sun rose. She didn’t mind, as she loved the calmness of the Atlantic Ocean as it got painted with the first rays of glorious, golden sunlight each day.

Well, at least each day in the height of the summer season, which it currently was.

After that, Alissa slicked back her hair into a tight bun and started on the pastries for the day. She’d been professionally trained for four long years of pastry school, and people could come into Heartwood just for their bakery.

Her creations.

Handmade, every morning.

The best part of Alissa’s job was that she finished by one o’clock, though most people didn’t know that was the end of a ten-hour work day.

Alissa knew it, and her back knew it, and the last of the summer cold she’d been fighting for weeks knew it. Still, she got dressed, not bothering to shower, and whistled for Dodger and Pirate to join her.

She lived in her grandparent’s old house, as only her grandmother remained alive now, and she’d moved in with Alissa’s parents when they’d officially retired from the Heartwood empire. Alissa’s oldest sister, Olympia, ran things now, and Alissa took a moment in the darkness to appreciate everything she had.

Sure, maybe she was lonely at night. Even in the afternoons, boredom found her. She needed a summer boyfriend, but she’d had one of those, thank you very much, and he’d left the island with most of her heart.

She’d tried dating a bit over the winter, but it was a half-hearted attempt, and she knew it. Half-hearted. She chuckled at her own lame joke, because it wasn’t funny what Calvin had done with her heart, and headed toward the dock across the sand.

Very few houses sat along the beach, as the hurricane season in South Carolina was no joke. But somehow, the Heartwood cottage where her grandparents had raised four daughters and a son had weathered all the storms over the years.

Alissa boarded Big Blue, patting the side of the boat like she did every morning. “Morning, Blue,” she said to the vessel as if it could respond. “Lots of shrimp today, okay? It’s Monday, and we get a lot of families in on Mondays.”

Especially if they came before seven, as kids ate free with a paying adult on Mondays. After that, cocktail hour began, and Redfin, the restaurant another of Alissa’s sisters managed, became crowded with adults holding delicate flutes of champagne, women wearing slinky dresses and men decked out in polos.

“Maybe I should go to cocktail hour tonight,” she said to Dodger, who’d just put his paws up on the doorknob, as if the German shepherd couldn’t wait to get inside the steering room. But the dog hated it in there. He’d probably left a ball in the corner somewhere. Alissa wouldn’t put it past him; the dog was as smart as they come.

Alissa unlocked the door and let Dodger in. Pirate, a much smaller basset hound, followed. Alissa moved around all the dials and switches with the ease of a seasoned pro. Of course, she was a seasoned pro, as she’d been heading out at three a.m. on this boat since she was five years old.

A pang of missing for her grandfather hit her, and she touched two fingers to her lips and said, “Love you, Grandpa,” before starting the engine. Big Blue groaned, but she came to life, and Alissa’s face burst into a smile. “Good girl.”

She backed out of the dock, flipped on her lights, and sent up a quick plea for a lot of shrimp. She didn’t want to deal with Gwen’s attitude about having to buy from the bigger commercial boats if Alissa couldn’t bring in enough shrimp.

Of course, it happened. She was one boat, while the commercial fisheries had whole teams of people, boats, and fishing spots. She just had the traps and lines she’d been setting for years now, though it did help that she didn’t have to go out as far as they did, and they couldn’t come into her waters and poach from her.

Captaining the boat brought Alissa a slip of happiness, but she still knew Big Blue wouldn’t be there to keep her warm at night, ask her about her day, or bring her roses.

Fine, she didn’t really want roses.

Or maybe she did.

At this point, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that there had to be more to life than waking up in the middle of the night, emptying lobster traps, and then making panna cotta and blueberry croissants.

Hours later, she still hadn’t worked out the meaning of life, but she felt confident she’d have enough shrimp to satisfy Gwen for the day.

The sun had come up already, and Alissa knew from experience that it was going to be a scorcher of a day. She wiped sweat from her forehead and replaced her disgusting shrimp boat captain hat before texting Gwen to send down her kitchen hands to get all the fish. Long ago, the water had gone almost to the restaurant, and the chutes in the bottom of the boat could be used to get the fish into the kitchen.

But the shoreline had receded a lot over the past few decades, due to more building, more expansion on the island. More wealth. More people discovering the gem of Carter’s Cove and booking their family vacations, honeymoons, weddings, anniversaries, and birthday celebrations on the island.

In the summer, the population doubled as tourists poured into town, and yet there always seemed to be enough hotels, enough swimming pools, and enough golf courses to keep everyone happy.

At least Alissa thought so. A new high-rise hotel had started being built just a half a block from her family’s land, where they had five homes of various sizes. Alissa didn’t share her grandparents’ place, but a couple of her sisters shared, with Olympia living full time in the hotel itself.

Theirs was probably the last bit of undeveloped land on the island, though Alissa knew there were wild spots over on the north side too.

Dodger barked as he hit the sand running, and Alissa shaded her eyes as she looked up. Gwen hadn’t responded to her text, but she’d obviously gotten it, as several men walked toward them, big, black containers in their hands. Pirate waddled on the sand, and the simple sight of it made Alissa smile.

“Hey, guys,” she said, flashing what she hoped was a bright smile at the guys. She thought she was a decent flirt, but none of the kitchen hands had ever asked her out.

That’s because Gwen’s the cute blonde, Alissa told herself, forcing herself not to turn around and walk backward in the sand. She wasn’t a supermodel by any stretch of the imagination, but she liked her curves.

All the right curves in all the right places. At least that was what her mother had always said.

She entered the kitchen through the back door of the restaurant, her calves burning from the long march up the beach. Since she’d thought of blueberry croissants that morning, she hadn’t been able to get them out of her head.

But they weren’t on her weekly list for the menu, so she couldn’t make them. Gwen would have a fit then, and Alissa didn’t need the drama in her life. Or maybe she did. Maybe it would be nice to have some drama for a change.

No one bothered her in the pastry nook, and the temperature in the kitchen only increased as the next couple of hours passed. Alissa felt like she’d melt into a puddle of sweat, despite the fan that blew in the corner.

She paused in her work and stepped over to the sink, turning the water on as cold as it would go. Then she practically dunked her head under the stream, the relief to her steamed face instant and refreshing.

“Alissa,” Olympia called, and she lifted her head out of the industrial-sized sink.

“Back here.”

Her sister’s heels clicked toward her, and it wasn’t the only pair of footsteps. Alissa couldn’t see who she’d brought with her, but it was definitely a man with broad shoulders in one of those annoying polos.

It wasn’t even noon yet, and Alissa had no idea what her sister could possibly need from her.

“There you are,” Olympia said, as if Alissa had been hard to find.

“Here I am.” Her face dripped with water, and she didn’t care—until the man stepped out from behind Olympia.

Though she had water droplets clinging to her eyelashes, Alissa could still make out the very handsome face of Shawn Newman.

She sucked in a breath.

The Shawn Newman from her childhood. Teenhood. Whatever.

She searched frantically for a towel, and of course, all such things seemed to have departed the area.

Shawn smiled, and oh, that wasn’t fair. He still had that same chestnut hair, those same sparkling blue eyes that had always teased her, even right as he was about to kiss her. Today, he wore a pair of blue board shorts and that blasted polo in lavender, and dang if Alissa’s heart didn’t beat faster and faster….

It was definitely whole enough for him to break it.

Lavender. She almost scoffed. What kind of man wore lavender?

Shawn Newman, her mind whispered.

“I need you to show Mister Newman around,” Olympia said, and alarms sounded through Alissa with the professional, clipped tone of her sister’s voice.

“What?” she asked.

“You two were friends in high school, right?” Olympia practically looked down her nose at Alissa, but without those heels, they’d be eye-to-eye.

Friends. Another scoff-worthy word. “Yeah,” Alissa said, dragging out the vowels at the end of the word. “Friends.”

With benefits, but Shawn just stood there, his winning smile on his face. Alissa wished she wasn’t dripping wet and boiling hot. She probably looked like a homeless dog who’d just fallen into pond scum.

“He’s back in town for a couple of weeks, and he’ll be staying with us,” Olympia said. “I’ve sent you a text with the details of what he needs.”


“Thanks, Liss.” Olympia put her fake business smile on her face and turned to Shawn. “She’s all yours.”

Oh, no she wasn’t, and Alissa bristled at the words. At the question her sister had silenced.

Why me?

Alissa didn’t deal with high-profile guests. Any of the other sisters would’ve been a better choice. And she certainly didn’t have time for Shawn Newman, his brilliant smile, or the jittery feeling in her stomach.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Alissa and Shawn were high school sweethearts but broke up and after many years found their way back to each other. I couldn't put it down till I had read the whole book! It would make a great Hallmark movie too.” ~DHill

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Book one of this new series begins the stories of the Heartwood family and the Hartwood Inn in costal SC. With an enemies to lovers romance theme, there was drama, trust issues, mistakes, lies, love, and conflict a few surprises. The characters were enjoyable, interesting, mature and realistic. I cant wait to read more about Carter's Cove.” ~Susan D.

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Fall in love with The Heartwood Inn in Carter’s Cove…with 5 sweet romances, each featuring a Heartwood sister. You’ll get this complete series of heartwarming stories of sisterhood, friendship, and love that will leave you wanting to revisit Carter’s Cove over and over again.

Visit the South Carolina coast and The Heartwood Inn in these clean and wholesome beach romances. Each romance features a Heartwood sister navigating the potholes of romance with someone they DEFINITELY don’t get along with…

  • Book 1: The Heartwood Sea

    She owns The Heartwood Inn. He needs the land the inn sits on to impress his boss. Neither one of them will give an inch. But will they give each other their hearts?

  • Book 2: The Heartwood Inn

    She’s excited to have a neighbor across the hall. He’s got secrets he can never tell her. Will Olympia find a way to leave her past where it belongs so she can have a future with Chet?

  • Book 3: The Heartwood Beach

    She’s got a stalker. He’s ex-military with a loud bark. Can Sheryl tame her bodyguard Gage into a boyfriend?

  • Book 4: The Heartwood Wedding

    He needs a reason not to go out with a journalist. She’d like a guaranteed date for the summer. They don’t get along, so keeping Brad in the not-her-real-fiancé category should be easy for Celeste. Totally easy.

  • Book 5: The Heartwood Chef

    They’ve been out before, and now they work in the same kitchen at The Heartwood Inn. Gwen isn’t interested in getting anything filleted but fish, because Teagan’s broken her heart before… Can Teagan and Gwen manage their professional relationship without letting feelings get in the way?

This series spins off to Hilton Head Island!

Escape to the beaches of South Carolina with this Supper Club of ladies, each of whom is starting over in some way in their 40s. New loves, new lives, new businesses - and they're waiting for YOU, their new best friend!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Later in life romance

✔ Pristine beach setting

✔ Island life

✔ He falls for her first!

✔ Walks on the beach

✔ Beach bonfire kisses

✔ Enemies to lovers

✔ Friends to lovers

✔ Single parent romance

✔ Women's friendship fiction

✔ Supper Clubs!

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
Amy B.

I loved this book and am happy I found it. I’m excited to continue this series.